Dressing the Part

Matthew 6:25–34, Romans 13:11–14:1, Galatians 3:19–28 (read online)

Have you ever put on clothes, whether someone else’s or at the store, and say, “that is not me?” There are a number of shows about clothes, and a lot of them are about what the clothes say about the person. The shows state a belief that the clothes say more about what the person thinks of themselves.

If you wear really baggy clothes (skipping the supposed in fashion part), you could just want to be comfortable, or you are so uncomfortable with yourself that you use the clothes to hide. That’s silly, you might say. However, if you really think about it, what clothes we were do affect how we think about ourselves. You may not wear a tux or a ballgown often, but when you do, it affects you. This is part of the reason we do see so many struggles with clothes.

One of the first things we judge a person we haven’t met before is their clothes. If you dress casually normally, and they’re dressed up, you may think they are too stiff or formal. If you normally dress up, you may think another person is too casual, and thus lazy or uncaring. These views often show up at church, but they also show up in other social settings.

“Dress the part,” is often the advice given to people applying for a new job, or seeking to move up in an organization. If, for example, the president wears a suit, you wear a suit. There are, of course, exceptions when it comes to that as certain occupations require certain clothes. Even there, though, if you don’t take care of the clothes you’ll receive a different reaction.

Jesus tells us not to worry about the clothes we wear. Yet, we do. In Jesus’ time, clothes are often a luxury. By and large, in the US, people can get fairly decent clothes for a relatively cheap price. However, obsessing about the latest fashion is probably not the most Christian thing. On the other hand, lecturing others for their expensive fashion is not our place either (the world does enough judging of its own there).

While not included in today’s passages, there is a time when Jesus speaks about having food that others do not know about and being the living water. These words can help us reason with Jesus’ words, especially when we read Paul’s words. While Jesus was concerned with people’s well-being on earth, His other concern was the life to come. There the clothes and food we concern ourselves about today, will not even be a whisper of a thought.

This leads us to Paul’s words. “Put on Jesus.” Is Jesus a coat or a robe that I just put on like clothes? This phrase often strikes people as odd. Unless you’re putting on an Edgar suit (see MIB), you don’t put on a person. If we’re honest with ourselves, putting on a Jesus suit seems pretentious, false, and, well…“not me”.

Putting on the Jesus suit is awkward. It doesn’t feel like us. It isn’t. In religious/spiritual/psychological circles we talk about changing from the inside-out. In Christian-speak, we would say the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside-out. However, the Jesus suit puts that into question. It’s where borrowing from a different Christians tradition is helpful. In the Reform circles, there is an emphasis on imputed righteousness. In other words, we’re righteous because God said so. They (and we) know that we still aren’t righteous. God is still working on us from the inside.

Yet, when we became Christians, we were issued a Jesus suit.

1) Assuming that your Jesus suit was white when given to you, what color do you think it is now?

2) Think about a piece of white clothing that gets washed over and over (and especially with other colors of clothing). What color does it turn into? Do you think a Jesus suit would discolor (i.e., no longer be white) after lots of washing?

3) How does a Jesus suit get washed?

4) Why a Jesus suit, and not a costume?